If the writers’ workshop, popular at most colleges, married online technologies, and they had a ninth-grade daughter, it would be Mr. Stephens’s English class.
Thus begins this funky and wonderful video application to Google for some free Chrome OS notebook computers. “Mr. Stephens” is my friend and fellow blogging enthusiast Peter of Slow Reads, who two years ago guest-blogged a post for this series about teaching grammer on Twitter. (He now uses the Twitter-like microblog service for schools, Edmodo, instead.) The video mentions the multi-user blog community he set up using WordPress, inko.us, as well as a plethora of other websites and online applications he’s adapted for high school use.
But just as important as the online tools are the freedom Peter allows his students and the respect he shows them. “To the extent possible, I’d like to run the classroom like a writer’s workshop,” he says.
They are the writers. They make choices. The more I can treat them like writers, the more effective they’re gonna be as writers and the more love they’re gonna have as writers. If they are always told what to write, whom to write to, and what genre to write in, they’re not gonna feel like writers.
To me, blogging is all about exploring this kind of freedom, and I’m glad Peter is able to bring that into the normally restictive environment of a public school classroom. I’ve always admired his willingness to learn new technologies; as the first lines of the video suggest, I think he’s actually ahead of most university writing teachers in this regard. In his blog post about the application to Google, he mentions that he bought and learned how to use iMovie for the sole purpose of making this video — his first. Do watch it.